One of my favorite reviewers described The Bourne Legacy as “Flowers for Algernon with a body count.”
I doubt I can do better than that.
But it is my duty to soldier on and explain what he means by that and tell you why Legacy is a decent, if unaffecting film that manages to build off the Damon films without completely copying them in every way.
Of course Matt Damon is absent for the duration of Legacy, not even bothering to put in a requisite cameo appearance, showing up only in a widely circulated photo that looks like it was taken right before he was in Good Will Hunting. His character’s name is all over the place, however. His replacement is the Hurt Locker himself, Jeremy Renner. After being the duct tape slapped onto existing franchises like Mission Impossible and the Hawkeye role for Thor and Avengers, Renner does a servicable job trying to hold together the aging series, making his performance different enough from Damon’s that it helps keep away the “been there done that” for at least a short time. (Though intercutting bits directly from The Bourne Supremacy serves as a cheesy reminder that the film is happening concurrently with the third film in the franchise.)
In Legacy we find Renner is a member of a side-program to the one that created Bourne. He is not seeking answers about who he is and where he comes from. He signed on for what he does and he is only too happy to do it, as he feels he’s doing right and serving his country and his people. It doesn’t hurt that he had an IQ approximately the same as Forrest Gump’s and they gave him some magic pills to turn him into a spy version of Bradley Cooper from Limitless.
When Bourne’s exposure of the CIA’s main program to build a better spy hits the public, the agent in charge of Renner’s division decides the risk of exposure towards himself and his people is worth razing every shred of evidence that this, apparently more successful, version exists, including the agents under their command. In charge is Ed Norton who isn’t especially menacing, but considering the main bad guys in this series always seem to be morally gray, middle-management, government bureaucrats, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Anyway, Renner escapes their initial blitzkrieg of his fellow uber-agents, but has his smart-pills taken away, dooming him to grow dumber and dumber. Enter Rachel Weisz as Generic Scientist Character and through a fun action sequence, she ends up his hostage/confidante and can help him attempt to hold onto his artificial smarts.
Bourne Legacy is not a movie full of surprises, nor does it add much originality to the formula. While Renner’s motivations are refreshingly different, the set pieces and feel of the movie are comparable and well done, but direct carry-overs,though strangely, the shaky-cam in this film feels slightly less stomach-churning than the last two. The actors are all top notch, but perhaps it is out of necessity that the film just feels like a phantom appendage to the main Bourne body. It’s enjoyable enough to watch that you’ll like it if you have liked the previous Bourne movies to this point, but it’s just extraneous. It’s a sugary confection that will not stick with you, but it doesn’t take a nose-dive into idiocy. Oddly, the most harrowing part doesn’t even involve Renner’s character, but is that way because of headlines we’ve seen over the last few years. There’s nothing patently offensive about the film, nor is there anything special about it. There just doesn’t seem to be much reason for it to exist other than to possibly line Universal’s pockets.
(I guess time will tell if the next film in the francise will “Fast and Furious” the sequels by having Renner and Damon join forces.)
(Two and a half out of five stars)